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Josh Hawley’s ploy to be a pro-Trump hero results in withering blowback

Mere hours later, some of those same Trump supporters would be marauding through the Capitol in a violent scene that will now be forever tied with the senator’s attempt to overturn a free and fair election.

Hawley is now a pariah among many of his colleagues, openly derided and mocked in his home state and a source of shame for longtime political supporters who helped propel him to his position.

If the photo of Hawley striding into the Capitol captured how the senator thought this week would go, it was a photo taken hours later, one of a masked Hawley sitting alone in the House chamber once the Capitol complex had been secured, that encapsulated how the week actually went.

“Sen. Hawley was doing something that was really dumbass and I’ve been really clear about that in public and in private since long before the announcement he was going to do this,” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told NPR on Friday. “It was a stunt, and it was a terrible, terrible idea, and you don’t lie to the American people. … Lies have consequences.”

To be sure, Hawley’s decision to be the face of the baseless Republican challenge to the election has endeared him to the pro-Trump base of the party, a powerful force if the Missouri Republican does run for President. But Trump’s hold on the party is an open question after the chaotic riot he fomented on Wednesday, leading any Republican who hoped to be the heir apparent to his political fortune in a precarious position.

Hawley — whose office did not respond to requests to speak to the senator about his week — announced on December 30 that he would object during the Electoral College certification process, defying Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Nearly a dozen other Republican lawmakers, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, later announced that they, too, would object.

Because of that — along with the pervasive view that Hawley was doing it as a way to brandish his credentials with pro-Trump Republicans ahead of a 2024 presidential run — Hawley has borne the brunt of the blame for kicking off the actions that led to thousands of Trump supporters storming the Capitol complex on Wednesday afternoon and forcing both the House and Senate to go into emergency lockdown.

And the response has been fierce and personal.

David Humphreys, a major donor to Hawley’s political rise, decried the senator in the wake of the insurrection, calling him a “political opportunist” and blaming his “irresponsible, inflammatory, and dangerous tactics” for sparking the riots. And to cap his criticism, Humphreys called for the Republican lawmaker to be censured.
Hawley also lost the support of his one-time mentor this week, when former Sen. John Danforth — a man whose support was central to Hawley winning his 2018 Republican primary — said supporting the Republican lawmaker was “the worst mistake of my life.”

“Supporting Josh and trying so hard to get him elected to the Senate was the worst mistake I ever made in my life,” Danforth said in a statement to the St. Louis Today. “Yesterday was the physical culmination of the long attempt … to foment a lack of public confidence in our democratic system.”

And in the wake of the insurrection, which took the lives of five people, multiple newspapers in Hawley’s home state either blamed the senator for the chaos or called on him to resign his seat.

“No one other than President Donald Trump himself is more responsible for Wednesday’s coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol than one Joshua David Hawley,” wrote the editorial board of The Kansas City Star, a paper that endorsed the would-be senator in the 2018 Republican primary. “Hawley’s actions in the last week had such impact that he deserves an impressive share of the blame for the blood that’s been shed.”
And the St. Louis Post Dispatch editorial board mocked Hawley, accusing him of having the “gall to stand before the Senate Wednesday night and feign shock, shock at what happened.”

“Hawley’s tardy, cover-his-ass condemnation of the violence ranks at the top of his substantial list of phony, smarmy and politically expedient declarations,” they wrote. “Hawley’s presidential aspirations have been flushed down the toilet because of his role in instigating Wednesday’s assault on democracy. He should do Missourians and the rest of the country a big favor and resign now.”

Hawley responded to the violence on Capitol Hill with a short statement: “The violence must end, those who attacked police and broke the law must be prosecuted, and Congress must get back to work and finish its job.”

But the damage, both to the Capitol and to Hawley, had long been done. And as anger at the senator smoldered, it began to extend beyond the Senate chamber and into the business world.

Simon & Schuster, the book publisher that was set to publish Hawley’s forthcoming book, announced Thursday that they would no longer distribute the book, an extraordinary move that seemingly made to prevent protests against the company.

“After witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Simon & Schuster has decided to cancel publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book,” the company said in a statement. “We did not come to this decision lightly.”

Hawley slammed the decision as a “direct assault on the First Amendment” — the Yale Law School graduate ignoring the fact that the First Amendment restricts the government from infringing on free speech, not private companies.

Hawley’s stock had fallen so low that even professional basketball coaches took the chance to dunk on the senator

“(Josh) Hawley’s a joke,” San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said during his pregame address on Thursday, saying both the Missouri senator and Cruz let their “self-interest, their greed, their lust for power outweigh their love of country or their sense of duty to the constitution or to public service.”

When the Senate reconvened, Hawley continued his objection, speaking as the Senate debated the results from Arizona and later objecting to the results from Pennsylvania.

As Hawley spoke from the Senate floor — “What we are doing tonight is actually very important,” he told his colleagues — the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, sat stoically behind him glaring into the back of Hawley’s head.

Romney, a usually composed political, rose to speak shortly after and his anger at colleagues like Hawley was evident.

“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States,” Romney said. “Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.”


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